The central male presence in the novel, Babamukuru is a cold and enigmatic figure who is difficult to penetrate. While the book’s point of view is decidedly female, Babamukuru enacts the pressures and duties placed on men attempting to raise their families’ status and to shake off the specter of poverty. Babamukuru’s intelligence, ambition, and accomplishments are often taken for granted by others, as it is the others who reap the benefits of his hard work without attaining a full understanding of the sacrifices involved. His dual roles as parent and administrator are often at odds. He uses his job as headmaster to avoid any form of emotional intimacy with the women who share his home with him. His relationship with Nyasha is especially fraught, since her general conduct and academic performance at the mission school reflect his abilities not only as a father but also as a leader.
From his earliest days, Babamukuru is the pawn of those who have offered him assistance and opportunity. He feels he has no choice but to accept the charity that the administrators at the mission school extend to him. After completing his education in South Africa, he does not want to pursue a higher degree in England, and he realizes that the hope of a brighter future for his extended family rests solely on his shoulders. Babamukuru stoically accepts his duty, even if he risks being viewed as a haughty authoritarian or unsympathetic bully by dictating what direction his family will take. He may not wish to be the leader, stern taskmaster, and voice of moral guidance in his family, but if he does not accept that role, his relatives will not be able to alter their circumstances on their own. Partly because of Babamukuru’s story and life experiences, Tambu realizes there are multiple interpretations to the choices that individuals make and the motives behind those choices.